Carla Della Gatta

Assistant Professor
Critical Studies Theatre
USC School of Dramatic Arts
1029 Childs Way, Suite 107
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0791

Absent Bodies and Puppetry in Octavio Solis’ Don Quixote: Part I

Adapting Cervantes' Don Quijote involves multiple layers of translation. Translating his novel into the theatrical genre, translating his Spanish into contemporary English, and translating his stories for a modern American audience, all contribute to a process that each playwright approaches differently. In this short paper, I will address the use of puppetry in Octavio Solis' Quixote: Part I that was originally commissioned for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2009. Puppet shows of Don Quixote, or portions of the text, have been popular in both English-language and Spanish-language theaters for years. Solis' adaptation did not conform to any particular style of puppet theatre because of its heavy use of actors for the majority of roles and its staging in a large outdoor theatre. Instead, puppets were relegated to the natural and fantastical world, and director Laird Williamson wanted to decenter their importance in the advertising campaign. The uber-marionettes that Edward Gordon-Craig calls for are present not just in the story, but in the story within, making the performative aspect of a puppet Quixote call into question the human's control, and body, more broadly. The puppet "bodies", sometimes gender-duplicitous (a male puppeteer for a female character, an actor and actress together performing Rocinante) and serving as the gateway to the fantastical, re-normalized the characters played by actors, even when those characters were part of the story's fantasy world. I will argue that because puppet characters were kept at a distance from the plot and distinguished from the characters played by actors, the OSF production negotiated the line between truth and fantasy by creating two different bodied-worlds, one of puppetry and one of humans.